Christopher Derrick

Christopher Hugh Derrick (12 June 1921 – 2 October 2007) was an English author, reviewer, publisher's reader and lecturer. All his works are informed by wide interest in contemporary problems and a lively commitment to Catholic teaching.

Christopher Derrick
Born(1921-06-12)12 June 1921
Hungerford, England
Died2 October 2007(2007-10-02) (aged 86)
Occupationpublisher's reader, reviewer, essayist
Period20th century
SpouseKatharine Helen Sharratt
Childreneight sons and a daughter
RelativesThomas Derrick (father), Michael Derrick (brother)


Christopher Derrick was born at Hungerford, the son of the artist, illustrator and cartoonist Thomas Derrick and his wife Margaret, née Clausen. He was educated at Douai School 1934–39, and at Magdalen College, Oxford, 1940 and 1945–47, his studies being interrupted by service in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. In 1943 he married Katharine Helen Sharratt, who graduated from Bedford College the same year. They had nine children, eight sons and a daughter. From 1953 to 1965 he was Printing Officer of the University of London, as well as working as a reader for Macmillan. Thereafter he worked independently as a literary adviser to various publishers, as a book reviewer, and as a writer and lecturer. He died on 2 October 2007 at the age of 86. His surviving literary papers have been deposited in the archive at Douai Abbey, Berkshire.

Literary careerEdit

Most interest in Derrick has been in his memories of G. K. Chesterton, who was a friend of his father, and more especially C. S. Lewis, who was Derrick's tutor at Magdalen. He was constantly being asked by Lewis's Catholic admirers – such as the German Neo-Thomist, Josef Pieper, two of whose works Derrick had reviewed – why Lewis himself never became a Catholic.[1] He provided as definitive an answer as possible in his 1981 book C. S. Lewis and the Church of Rome. Another friend was the economist E. F. Schumacher, whose interest in Catholic social teaching he shared.[2]

Besides working as a literary adviser to a number of British publishing houses, Derrick was also a prolific book reviewer, among other publications for The Times Literary Supplement as well as for The Tablet, where his brother Michael Derrick was the assistant editor 1938–1961.[3] For a time he was himself the editor of Good Work, the journal of the Catholic Art Association.[4]

His daily occupation as a publisher's reader and a book reviewer meant constant engagement with the emerging trends of literary culture. He drew on this in many ways, including the writing of a book of advice for aspiring novelists: Reader's Report on the Writing of Novels.

Most of Derrick's writings, however, draw less on such literary reminiscences than on reflection on matters of pressing public concern within and outside the Catholic Church in the 1960s, 70s and 80s: the environment, social relations, sexual relations, population, liturgy, ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, education, and the current state of language and literature.[5] One of the more successful of these books was Escape from Scepticism, a work inspired by the great books programme at Thomas Aquinas College in California.[6]

Books by Christopher DerrickEdit

  • The Moral and Social Teaching of the Church. New Library of Catholic Knowledge vol. 8. London: Burns & Oates. 1964.
  • Cosmic Piety: Modern Man and the Meaning of the Universe, edited by Christopher Derrick. New York: P. J. Kennedy & Sons, 1965.
  • Light of Revelation and Non-Christians, edited by Christopher Derrick. Staten Island, NY: Alba House. 1965.
  • Trimming the Ark: Catholic Attitudes and the Cult of Change. London: Hutchinson. 1969. ISBN 0-09-096850-6[7]
  • Reader's Report on the Writing of Novels: a publisher's reader examines the pitfalls facing the aspiring novelist. London: Gollancz. 1969. ISBN 0-575-00266-2
  • Honest Love and Human Life: Is the Pope Right about Contraception?. London: Hutchinson. 1969. ISBN 0-09-098780-2[8]
  • The Delicate Creation: Towards a Theology of the Environment. London: Tom Stacey Ltd. 1972. ISBN 0-85468-203-1[9]
  • Escape from Scepticism: Liberal Education as if Truth Mattered. LaSalle, Ill.: Sherwood Sugden. 1977. ISBN 0-89385-002-9. Reissued by Ignatius Press. 2001. ISBN 978-0-89870-848-6
  • Joy Without a Cause: Selected Essays of Christopher Derrick. La Salle, Ill.: Sherwood Sugden. 1979. ISBN 0-89385-004-7
  • The Rule of Peace: St. Benedict and the European Future. Still River, Mass.: St. Bede's Publications. 1980. ISBN 0-932506-01-1. Reissued 2002. ISBN 978-0-932506-01-6
  • C. S. Lewis and the Church of Rome: A Study in Proto-Ecumenism. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1981. ISBN 0-89870-009-4
  • Church Authority and Intellectual Freedom. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1981. ISBN 0-89870-011-6
  • Sex and Sacredness: A Catholic Homage to Venus. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1982. ISBN 0-89870-018-3
  • That Strange Divine Sea: Reflections on Being a Catholic. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1983. ISBN 0-89870-029-9
  • Too Many People? A Problem in Values. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1985. ISBN 0-89870-071-X
  • Words and the Word: Notes on our Catholic vocabulary. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1987. ISBN 0-89870-130-9


  1. ^ Josef Pieper, Autobiographische Schriften. Edited by Berthold Wald. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag. 2003. p. 580f
  2. ^ The ChesterBelloc Mandate: The Education of E. F. Schumacher
  3. ^ "Farewell to Christopher Derrick", The Tablet, 20 October 2007, p. 44.
  4. ^ Merton Center website
  5. ^ Obituary in St. Austin Review, January 2008.
  6. ^ Obituary Archived 21 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine in Thomas Aquinas College Newsletter, Fall 2007.
  7. ^ Reviewed in TLS, 7 August 1969.
  8. ^ Reviewed in TLS, 18 September 1969.
  9. ^ Reviewed in TLS, 29 June 1973.

External linksEdit